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Thai and Malaysia leaders discuss insurgency, Myanmar crisis

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, left, escorted by Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob met with his Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday in the first official visit of a foreign leader to Thailand since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The two leaders reviewed an honor guard outside Prayuth's offices in Bangkok before sitting down to discuss bilateral issues, including ways to boost their economies. They also briefly touched on the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.

    Thailand's three southernmost provinces border on Malaysia and have been at the center of a low-level but often deadly Muslim insurgency for many years. Help from Malaysia has long been seen as key to restoring peace.

    In a joint statement after their meeting, the two leaders said they reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful solution, with Malaysia acting as a facilitator.

    The two leaders exchanged views "on promoting economic development to uplift livelihoods" of residents of Thailand's southernmost provinces -- among the nation's poorest and least developed -- and Malaysia's northern states, they said.

    They also said they underlined the need for solidarity among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in implementing a plan to ease the crisis in Myanmar known as the Five Point Consensus.

    The plan was adopted last April by ASEAN members but Myanmar has so far stalled on putting it into effect.

    Myanmar's army seized power in February last year from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, and opposition to its takeover has evolved into armed resistance that some U.N. experts have described as civil war.

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